Dahlfin II Status

Last updated: June 15, 2001

South Africa Travels

Ron & Bonnie Dahl, s/v Dahlfin II

April 30, 2001

Greetings from South Africa! We arrived on 18 April Disembarking from the plane at 0720 as our feet hit the tarmac on a run - and we've been running ever since. Eddie and Colleen, our S. Africa hosts/sailing friends were there to meet us complete with champagne and the 5 camper-vans delivered. While the guys went through a camper-van briefing, we gals moved aboard and started stowing our gear.

And then we were off - braving the Capetown traffic, driving on the left side of the road - with stick shifts. Quickly we found that our camper (driver) has a little weather helm to port - a little 'gun-shy' of that center line? That evening we were invited to a S. Africa home, relatives of Eddie's, for a tradition S. Africa meal - a braai (barbecue) which after 5 hours, 7 meats and who knows how many bottles of wine later we finally left - all of us dead tired because we had all been traveling for 3 days and had had little sleep in 72 hours.

We spent 3 more days in the Capetown area visiting the wineries at Stellenbausch (bought grog/wine for the impending 'voyage'), a penguin colony, Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, toured the city and waterfront - and of course took the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain. We had perfect weather (no tablecloth) and the view was absolutely spectacular. In the days that followed we continued east along the coast with the Indian Ocean to starboard and the mountains to port. Words cannot describe the beauty of this majestic country with the surf pounding the beaches, the beautiful cultivated valleys and the rugged mountains. Everything is HUGE.

We start each day at 0600 and go until 1900 or 2000, ending each day with a braai around a fire beneath the stars. Each 'anchorage' is better than the last. The S. Africans really know how to camp. Each campgrounds has 'abolution stations' (toilets) complete with showers AND bathtubs. Today we traveled 180 miles north into the interior of the Great Karoo passing through 2 magnificent mountain passes. It's hard to believe the Voortrekkers made it through these rugged passes with their oxen and covered wagons hundreds of years ago. In the valleys we saw hundreds of grazing ostriches which are kept much the same way as we graze beef cattle. We have begun to see game in the wild: springbok, hartebeast, and zebra. We are presently waiting to go on our first 'game drive' late in the afternoon. Then tonite we will have our communal braai. Before dawn tomorrow morning we will gather to head out on our morning 'drive' returning to camp 1000 for a hearty S. Africa breakfast braai. Rest and hike -lots of dinosaur fossils here, still in the ground - then go again for our afternoon 'drive'. Impressions? S. Africa far surpasses our wildest expectations.

Tot siens (goodbye in Afrikaans)

Ron & Bonnie

May 16, 2001

We are now back on the coast having traveled through a number of hair-raising mountain passes. With sharp hair-pin turns with no guards on dirt roads they have been true white knuckle experiences. The scenery has been magnificent and we felt like we were up in a helicopter. After those experiences Ron is becoming quite adept at driving our camper. We are now back on the coast continuing to head east along the ocean in what is called the Garden Route. This area is a lush green sub-tropical rain forest nurtured by the rains which come off the Indian Ocean held along the sea coast by the mountains.

Our campgrounds continue to be quite beautiful and luxurious. At Storms River we camped right next to the ocean - our rear picture window facing the huge rolling seas as the broke on the rocks sending the spray 30-40 feet high. With nothing between us and Antarctica but the Indian Ocean the seas and rollers were quite huge. At night we were lulled to sleep by the constant sound of the surf breaking on the rocks.

From there we headed inland back into the Karoo to Addo Elephant Park where we went on another game drive. We were most fortunate to come across a herd of 30 or more elephants of all sizes at a water hole right next to the road we watched them for a couple of hours as they entertained us with their antics in the water and even a little sparing among the younger bulls. Some of the adult males were really large as they crossed back and forth across the road right next to our vehicles. We are presently in Mountain Zebra National Park and have just come back from another game drive where we continue to see zebra, red hartebeast, springbok, ostrich, and even the huge black wildebeast which is quite rare in most areas. The scenery continues to be magnificent in this wild rugged country. Words cannot describe the beauty, pictures cannot even come close to capturing the grandeur.

Ron & Bonnie

May 23, 2001

After leaving Mountain Zebra National Park we continued our trek across S. Africa by heading north into the Drakensberg Mountains. At 3,000 plus meters we were VERY cold. It was the only night we didn't braai. At Dragon's Peake still in the mountains we went on a day hike up into the mountains and then had a special treat - a concert by the world renown Drakonsberg Boys Choir which is similar to the Vienna Boys Choir. We then spent 2 days in the Weenen Game Reserve where we saw our first rhinos and giraffe along with the usual variety of antelope. We also went on a rough 4x4 drive back in the bush to see more game. Our next stop was one of our hosts' "secret surprises" at the Umgeni Valley Reserve. Here we left our camper vans and hiked down into the valley with our back packs for 2 1/2 days, 2 nights. It really wasn't that rough as our guides cooked all our meals over open fire safari-style. While in the valley we took hikes, had lessons in tracking game, reading spoor and even went repelling - it was quite an adventure.

From there we went back to the coast where we spent 3 days in the Durban area. A high point for us was that we went swimming and body surfing a number of times in the Indian Ocean. We then continued inland again for another "secret surprise", an overnight stay at Shakaland where we were treated to luxurious meals and accommodations in Zulu style round huts. They provided a number of different "cultural experiences" where we learned about the Zulu life style: weaving, making beer, customs and warfare. But the highlight was after supper when we were treated to an evening of Zulu dancing. Once again nothing can describe the sights and sounds of that night. After Shakaland we continued to the Mkuzi Game Reserve where we saw our first hippos along with zebra, giraffe, monkeys and baboons. It is a real thrill to see these animals in the wild and visiting a zoo will never again be the same. We are presently at a very lush complex, resort called Badplass in which we have been enjoying the hot spring mineral baths. Tomorrow we head to Krugger where we will spend 4 days of game drives hoping to see predators and big cats.

Ron & Bonnie

June 6, 2001

Kruger Park turned out to be everything we had expected. We stayed in 3 different campgrounds: Berg en dahl, Lower Sabie, Pieters(?). Each day (4 1/2 days) we went on a game drive early each morning and late in the afternoon in our camper. We were very lucky to see all of the Big Five: lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and elephant in addition to giraffe, hippo, hyena, zebra, wildebeest, monkeys, baboons, impala and lots of other varieties of antelope. We were charged by the rhino while in our camper which ranks right up there with one of the most exciting things we have ever experienced in our lives. Interestingly, it's the people in Kruger who are caged in, not the animals as each campground is fenced in with the animals allowed to roam free. We had to be inside the compound from 6pm to 6am each night and it was reassuring as we would hear the lions roar outside during the night.

From Kruger we went to Pretoria for 2 nights where we took in the sights, cleaned the camper-vans and turned them in. We flew into Botswana from Jo'burg (Johannesburg) and then boarded two little plans (6 seater 'mosquitos') to fly into our first safari camp. Our first camp was on an island in the Okavago Delta, Delta Camp. Here we went on water safari in dugout canoes (makoros) poled through the water by our guide, 1 makoro/couple. We also went on some walking land game drives including a lion drive through the tall grasses. This added a new element of excitement as there was nothing between us and the game as in other drives. We saw elephant, zebra, wildebeest, hippo, lion and new varieties of antelope.

From Delta Camp we again flew in the 'mosquitos' to another safari camp, Okuti, which is located in the Moremi Game Reserve. Our game drives were now in 4x4s over rugged terrain. In addition to seeing the the usual game the high point of this safari was when we went tracking lion to a reported rhino kill. We were not disappointed as we saw 2 huge males feeding and 5 females rolling and sleeping off their huge feeds next to the rhino carcass - all within 50 ft of the 4x4! We were also fortunate to stay with a pack of wild dogs (an endangered species) for over 1/2 hour.

Our last safari was at Dumatau Camp and this was by far the most luxurious with king size beds indoor and outdoor showers over looking a wild lagoon where we were visited by elephants and rhino. The meals were 5 star and they even brought a complete champagne brunch with chairs, tables and table clothes out in the bush during one of our game drives. In addition to the usual we saw a cheetah with 2 little cubs and lots of lion really close up - spent hours with a pride of 15 including cubs and even watched 3 females stalking and hunting on a late night drive. On the last day we came upon a large herd of elephant unexpectedly and were charged by 1 large bull and 2 females. There was lots of roaring/trumpeting, bashing around, swinging heads and trunks. Clearly the elephants were very angry with our intrusion and we had about 4-5 very tense minutes - AND got it all on video.

Note that in Botswana there were no fences so the animals were free to roam around the camp - and some did. For safety, we were escorted to our tents/cabins each night and not allowed to go out on our own. We are presently back in Jo'burg getting ready to fly out tomorrow. Our flight time is longer this time because we will be going against the jet stream and have to stop in Cape Town to top off on fuel before crossing the Atlantic: 21 hours total. Then we have a 3 hour flight from Atlanta to Mpls - so we'll be pretty tired. Will do a final entry on 'Reflections on the Overall Trip' after we get back and rested.

Ron & Bonnie

June 15, 2001

Reflections on S. Africa, 2001

A few of you have asked questions about the trip so I will try to wind up a few loose ends.

  1. How it all started: In 1997 we met Eddie and Colleen in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. They had sailed their boat across from Cape Town and our conversations turned to S. Africa and how we would like to visit there. They said the only way to really see S. Africa was by camping and you needed at least 2 months. We continued to sail with them off and on through the next few years, weathered a couple of hurricanes with them and the idea grew. Our group ended up being 5 couples, all but 1 couple, sailors from the Caribbean.
  2. Campervans: Our campers were quite large with a queen size bed over the cab and another in the back. It had a full galley with stove, microwave, fridge, sink, dishes, and pots/pans. We also had a head with a shower, closet, lots of cupboards/storage space and towels and bedding provided. They drove quite well as we took them over mountain passes, in conjested city traffic and on countless game drives. We were glad of their large size as they were our homes for 44 days. We agree with our hosts, Eddie and Colleen that it's the best way to really see S. Africa as we didn't feel at all like tourists. Because of camping, we got to talk with alot of Afrikaners in the campgrounds and grocery stores. We also visited a number of our hosts family and friends so we had many insights to S. African life that few visitors experience.
  3. Security: We never felt threatened or ill at ease. But then we were traveling as a group and there were some areas we just didn't go into. We were also careful to keep cameras etc. concealed in airports, Durban and Jo'berg. We would definitely go again - even by ourselves now that we have some knowledge of the country.
  4. Money: The American dollar is incredibly strong in S. Africa giving us lots of buying power and giving us an inexpensive trip for all that we did and how long we were there. The currency unit is the rand: $1 US = 8 rand. At one butcher shop we purchased 4 thick T-bone steaks and 2 thick pork chops for the equivalent of $6.50 US. One night we both had a complete meal of spareribs and a bottle of wine for $8 US - for the both of us!
  5. Highpoints of the trip: Through the weeks we came to know and love S. Africa as few visitors are privileged to experience: the grandeur of the mountains, the lush green valleys, the austere Great Karoo, the incredible beauty of the coastline as it plunges into the Indian Ocean, the abundance of the wildlife. Without a doubt, the countless game drives we went on were some of the best parts of the trip. It was a special treat, of which we never tired, to see the large variety of game roaming in the wild. Our 3 safaris in Botswana were also very special: we saw an incredible amount of wildlife and were pampered like kings with gourmet meals and luxurious lodging. Lastly we cherish our many encounters with S. African people. They all were so open and pleasant to us. Common statements were "Do you like our country" and "Tell the people back in the US about us". We felt that they very much want to be accepted and have others understand what they are going through. The country has undergone considerable change in the past 12 years with the changes in leadership and recinding the laws of apartheid. It is clear that in years to come there will continue to be change as S. Africa struggles with internal issues and takes its part in the world community.

Finally, we would like to publically say thank you to our dear cruising friends, Eddie and Colleen, who put this trip together for us. They spent countless weeks and months making all the plans, booking reservations, looking after all the details to make sure everything went smoothly. Without their efforts we would have never gone and would have missed out on the trip of a lifetime.

Tot siens, Ron & Bonnie